Pediatrician or general practitioner? Here's how to choose

Pediatrician or general practitioner? Here's how to choose

From 6 years of age both figures can by law take care of our child, but the choice must be taken with great attention

The health of our children is one of our greatest concerns and it is often legitimate to ask ourselves: is it better to rely on the pediatrician or the general practitioner? And what does it mean to prefer one figure to another?

A premise: up to the age of 6 it is not possible to choose between the two options and the children are entrusted to a family pediatrician, specifically in charge of protecting children and the age of growth. At the age of 14, the pediatrician's assistance is automatically withdrawn. It can be extended up to 16 years in case of particular and documented chronic pathologies or handicap situations. In the age of 6-14, however, a child can be indifferently entrusted to the care of the pediatrician or the family doctor.

The pediatrician follows each child from birth and is required to access services and benefits guaranteed by the National Health Service. Unless exceptional cases, such as in areas of the country where there is scarce availability of colleagues, a pediatrician cannot assist more than 800 children in the same period. The pediatrician is also trained to follow even young boys and girls in puberty, capturing the important physical and psychological changes it brings with it.

However, there are reasons that may lead parents to anticipate the transition from a pediatrician to a primary care physician, even before the child's 14th birthday. The factors may be different. For example, a particular trust in the family doctor. Or an advantage in terms of comfort. Or again, there are super "popular" pediatricians, who follow many children: the result is very long waits and limited attention to the needs of small patients, factors that can discourage parents.

In general, however, the advice is not to change doctors to their child ahead of time, unless it is necessary for particular family needs. It is clearly stated in the guide "Adolescence and transition. From the pediatrician to the adult doctor ", published by Sintesi Infomedica, and confirmed by Dr. Marina Picca, President of the Italian Society of Pediatric Primary Care – Lombardia (SICuPP).

The psychological importance of a change of doctor for a child, who over the years can identify the pediatrician as a real personal reference point, should not be underestimated. Changing it, for the benefit of a person who does not know, can prove to be a delicate stage in its growth phase.

Therefore it becomes important to prepare the child (or the boy) for the transfer in time, support him in the transition to a different figure of doctor, more adult and direct, and to different novelties of environmental factor (see in the waiting room, instead of his peers, patients of very different age groups or posters and pamphlets not designed only for children). Finally it is essential to convey the message that the new doctor is "one of the family", that he knows his father and mother very well and that he will therefore be able to take care of the health of his new, assisted young man without any problems or embarrassment.

In 2000 the percentage of children in the 7-14 age group assisted by the pediatrician was, on a national basis, just 40%, while already in 2010 it exceeded 80%. The figure of the pediatrician seems therefore to be increasingly trusted by the families, with the primary physician who takes over.

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